Cut Copy always served an appreciable role in my twilight drives to buckshot nowhere, even in their darkest moments. And yes, they’ve had their share of dark moments, fathomed from and destined for hell, but they balance their failed ventures with good things. Things like Haiku from Zero.
SPOILER ALERT: I love this album.
I picked up Bright Like Neon Love merely 3 hours after hearing an overhead Cut Copy song in a new-age Dallas taceria, enjoying my grease-packed quasi-meat enterprise of a meal. After falling in love with the 13-year-old album, I’d drive my friends out the middle of everywhere for “undisclosed purposes,” forcing Cut Copy down their throat as they stared longingly into the sunset. Because listening to Cut Copy within other contexts, outside of driving meaninglessly and discovering new colors in the sky (burning my retinas in the process), was incomprehensible. If a band’s main task is to define a feeling, Cut Copy captures that sunset drive motif—the apprehension of losing what little is left. On a scale of EUPHORIA to ALL IS LOST, this band falls at a comprehensive MOST IS LOST BUT WHATEVER, LET’S DANCE.
The quartet grasps at different genres with each sequential release, but they’ve nevertheless retained their 80s-esque charm. Blame it on their voices, looping beats, simple and repetitive guitar riffs, systematic approach to basslines, s’il vous plait. But the band nailed Indie dance before Indie dance was a thing, and for these undertakings we owe them a favor, a beer, or a minor but appreciable sum of money (like ~$4. I’m poor, okay?).
Then they released Free Your Mind in late 2013, and I vomited for a week straight.
But forget that disappointment. Though other critics have placed all earlier releases over their latest, you can reasonably tell the high priests to take a seat and stop scratching their asses. Because this review is better, unbiased (insert feigned cough), and took several playthroughs to complete.
This time around, Cut Copy does not so much reach into their magical hat and pull out a new-but-somewhat tangential genre, nor do they find a rabbit. Instead, they reach into their magic hat, pull out their hands, find them empty, shrug their shoulders, and traverse to the neighbor’s yard to ask politely if they may use their patented Genre-Fusion Machine®. The neighbors ask “What are you standing in my yard for? Please come closer.” Then the band puts forth their request again. The neighbors inform Cut Copy that they’ve just started the Genre-Fusion Machine® and may return tomorrow evening after they’ve experimented with post-rock and grasswave combinations. Cut Copy sighed and agreed. That night they cried, separately, alone.
The next day, they began creating Haiku from Zero, and the opening track so perfectly framed the band’s intentions that they decided to make an even better track. “Counting Down” was that. They were grooving, they were moving. Literally, they moved houses so that they could avoid the neighbors and hold on to the Genre-Fusion Machine® just a bit more. Legend has it they never returned the bloody machine, just more or less adopted it, but they succeeded at fusing every element of themselves they’d created over the years.
Believe it or believe it: Haiku from Zero is enjoyable from open to close (9:00 p.m. sharp). Some songs stumble over themselves, their driving concepts being a bit bland or bloated to find a genuine personality, but that doesn’t detract from the overall experience. The album has a genuine and loving polish, unmatched by their other forays into the musical landscape. Not once does it seem Cut Copy admitted defeat and cried, “That’s enough editing, f*ck it,” only to release the song and regret it later. They have to make their neighbors proud, after all.
And in the lyrics department, Cut Copy have marginally improved their subtlety and embedded meaning, but this relative difference is only rarely pronounced. Whenever they do forego that skin-deep philosophy, you’ll be struck with an incurable case of incomprehension, like in “Airborne.” The brain can only handle so many random words strung together. But if you listen carefully and repeatedly, you will hear the thesis statement of every song in more than one place. It’s standard Cut Copy fare, in the end.
Tellingly enough, this is the only album the band’s produced that I’ve not skipped one song to reach the next, and this minor but significant quality delights me. Each track finds value by its own merits, but as I stated earlier, some have little to offer past the initial substance, both musically and lyrically. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
With the help of the sunset, you can find me crying in my vehicle to “Standing in the Middle of the Field” and “Tied to the Weather,” or dancing and screaming into my friends’ virgin ears as “Black Rainbows” fills the landscape. But there are 10 invaluable songs here to add to your mp3 listening device, and you can be sure I’ll be revisiting this album when I determine my favorites of 2017.
By: Blane Worley